Peoria Rivermen goaltender Kyle Rank was an afterthought in a fight-filled hockey game that got chippier as it progressed. However, it was Ranker’s 27-save performance which proved to be the difference in a 3-1 Rivermen victory over the Louisiana IceGators. The IceGators loss dropped their record to 1-2-0, and the Rivermen evened their record at 2-2-0.
The evening began with Rivermen defenseman Ben Woodley testing his mettle against the IceGators heavyweight Anthony Pisano. The scrap was a decidedly one-sided affair, with Woodley quickly getting knocked to the ice by Pisano. Slow starts for the IceGators were a problem in their first two games on the road, but tonight the Gators started with a much better effort. Peoria responded with a solid effort in the opening frame, and the first period ended in a scoreless draw. Both teams had one power play in the period, and each team shot nine pucks on net.
Ben Woodley again was a factor in the beginning of the second act, except this time he tried his luck against IceGators left winger Tyler Barr. Woodley delivered a below-the-knees hit on Barr, then promptly dropped the gloves. Barr obliged, then proceeded to punch Woodley down to the ice. We have to give Ben Woodley a little credit – he’s definitely someone who is willing to take one (or in this case, two) for the team.
Mike Gurtler opened the scoring for the Rivermen at the 5:18 mark of the second period. Gurtler poked the puck from IceGators defenseman Travis Armstrong at the point and went the length of the ice on a breakaway, flipping the puck past Adam Courchaine. The IceGators would answer the goal with a strong flurry in front of Rank, with Jeremy Boyer punching the puck into the net to tie the game at a goal a piece. Mitch Stretch and Nick Kuqali got the assists on Boyer’s tally. The Rivermen would break the tie later in the period, with former IceGator Jake Trask deflecting a Ben Oksroba shot past Courchaine with 4:46 remaining in the second period. The score after 40 minutes of hockey was 2-1 Rivermen, but the Gators had a 12-7 shot advantage during the second frame.
The third period had plenty of back-and-forth action, but it didn’t necessarily involve skating. Referee Cory Denback handed out 30 penalty minutes in the final frame. The 6’6″ Woodley returned to the sin bin after giving 5’9″ Chris Wilson a few shots, drawing a roughing call at the 5:57 mark. Soon after, Woodley had some choice words for Denback, and the referee gave the defenseman an additional ten minutes in the penalty box for misconduct. Woodley would remain in the box for the remainder of the game.
Up to the last ten minutes of the game, neither the IceGators nor the Rivermen have had any success on special teams. At the time, the IceGators was 0-for-11 on the power play over the young season and Peoria was 0-for 22 with the man advantage. Apparently, the 23rd time was a charm for the Rivermen. While Tyler Barr was in the penalty box for a thundering boarding hit on Mike Gurtler, a second former IceGator found his way onto the scoresheet. Adam Stuart scored from the far post on the power play to close out the scoring. The rest of the game provided little offense from either team, with both teams combining for three shots over the final eight minutes. Courchaine would be pulled for the extra attacker with 1:35 remaining, but the Gators were unable to use the 6th skater to their advantage. The Rivermen took the first game of the three-game series, 3-1.
- Today’s home opener commemorated the 20th anniversary of the IceGators inaugural home opener. The then-ECHL IceGators defeated the Mobile Mysticks, 3-1.
- The ice at the Cajundome was extremely soft and warm. The second and third periods were delayed a few minutes due to water puddling in places.
- The power play goal scored in the 3rd period by the Rivermen was their first in 23 attempts, and the first blown penalty kill for the IceGators this season.
- Two of the three Rivermen goals were scored by former IceGators. Jake Trask and Adam Stuart both played for Louisiana last season.
- While Tyler Barr was in the penalty box for boarding Mike Gurtler in the 3rd period, Rivermen defenseman Ben Woodley launched into a long, profanity-filled tirade during Barr’s time off the ice. This beef between Barr and Woodley may spill over into tomorrow’s rematch.
Louisiana IceGators (1-2-0)
Peoria Rivermen (2-2-0)
0-1-0 — 1
0-2-1 — 3
9-12-7 — 28
9-7-5 — 21
Peoria – Mike Gurtler (unassisted) 5:18
Louisiana – Jeremy Boyer (Mitchell Stretch, Nicholas Kuqali) 8:53
Peoria – Jake Trask (Ben Oskroba) 14:57
Peoria – Adam Stuart (power play) (Tim Hall) 11:54
The Sin Bin’s Three Stars
★★ – Mike Gurtler, Forward, Peoria
★★★ – Ben Oksroba, Defenseman, PeoriaThe IceGators and Rivermen meet again Friday night at the Cajundome for game two of this three-game weekend series. Game time is at 7:05pm.
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